User:Billinghurst/80Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects/On the Present State and Prospects of Historical Study (2)
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On the Present State and Prospects of Historical Study, part 2
ON THE PRESENT STATE AND PROSPECTS OF HISTORICAL STUDY.
(May 20, 1876.)
IN the remarks which I took upon myself to offer in the last Lecture on the present prospects of Historical study, I think that I managed to touch upon every point of special interest to Oxford and the educational use of my subject: to touch upon every pointy I say, because it was neither necessary nor possible to treat exhaustively of any one. I may have to recur in the present Lecture to some of the more general or more prominent topics, but I propose now to take a view of the broader side of the subject, Historic study and its position in England and Europe, as affected by the work of the last ten years; not with any special view to the educational importance of the work, but generally as a material and substantial branch of human knowledge.
Taking England first; the first point I shall notice is the great spread of the taste for history which has marked the period. This may be tested in two ways. The great number of new books and reprints of old ones, the large editions and re-issues of standard books, school books, and volumes of essays, and the number of reviews of historical books, or short historical articles in magazines and newspapers, are one branch of proof; the more lively interest taken in the preservation of historical monuments, whether in the shape of documents or in that of architectural and antiquarian remains, is another. I am not prepared to say that the last ten years have witnessed the introduction of any entirely new elements in either branch, or that we are not yet a long way off from the state of things which we may wish for, when the publication of a great historical discovery may be welcomed with as much ardour as a new poem or a new book of travels, and when the preservation of public and private memorials will become the care of every family and individual that possesses them, as well as of the nation at large. But we have gone on steadily improving ourselves; not to speak yet of the important works which have met appreciative readers, I would adduce such points as these: the revival and extension of the work of the learned Societies, especially the Camden and Surtees Societies; the wide-spread interest taken in the work of the Commission for examining Historical Manuscripts in private hands; and the Parliamentary discussions on the preservation of Historic monuments. Each of these three matters may claim an important bearing on the growth of historic culture. In each we see those private and personal influences combined and utilised for good purposes, which too often have been wasted upon mere pomps and vanities, or mere archæological trifling.
The expansion and extension of genealogical study is a very remarkable feature of our own times. Men are apparently awaking to the fact that there are other families besides those described in the peerage, that those families have their records, played their part in history, furnished the bone and sinew of national action, and left traces behind them which it behoves their descendants to search out and keep in remembrance. There is nothing in this that need be stigmatised as vain and foolish; it is a very natural instinct, and it appears to me to be one of the ways in which a general interest in national history may be expected to grow. It is an increasing, pursuit both in America and in England, and certainly helps, by the promotion of careful investigation and by the publication of recondite memorials, the more complete adjustment of personal and local details. This has no doubt helped largely the work of the Manuscripts Commission; it has enabled the learned societies to attempt larger and more costly works, and has been the portal by which many, destined and qualified to be valuable historical helpers, have entered the field of historic study.
Local history and minute archaeology have been of use in the same way: the Harleian Society has published heraldic visitations; the local societies have printed subsidy rolls and old legal memoranda; old county histories have been republished; little popular county histories are found in every farm-house in the country, where the editors or compilers have contrived, by mingling the utile of the directory with the dulce of historic memoranda, to stimulate the curiosity of every class.
I have called this a revival, and so it is; these pursuits do not seem to admit of much development, one flourishes and another languishes, as may be traced very clearly in the pages of the Archæologia; twenty years ago architectural antiquities were the great object of local study, now through a genealogical period we are perhaps working our way to a constitutional one, which I shall be most happy to welcome. I think that just now, when so many of our most ancient institutions, the manorial system and the ecclesiastical and civil judicature of old times, are either falling into desuetude or being ruthlessly abolished, it would be a good work for local zeal to put on record what memory and custom can still supply as to the working of these old institutions. I wish to see a manorial map of England as it exists now or as it existed twenty years ago, reflecting as it must do the condition of territorial power at the time when it became impossible to create new manors, in the reign of Edward I; reflecting, as it could easily be made to do, the local and dynastic arrangements of parties and families during the fourteenth, fifteenth, and seventeenth centuries, arrangements which still survive but are destined, by the operation of legal changes most of them intended to facilitate the alienation of land and to amend the administration of justice, to speedy extinction.
Well, I only adduce these as feeders, so to speak, of the stream of historic interest. Here and there they add a really precious contribution, but chiefly they are valuable as drawing in students to the higher and nobler study. Without them I doubt not we should have our Macaulays and Froudes, our Maines and our Freemans, but without them those writers would have to dispense with nine-tenths of their intelligent and interested readers; and without their contributions the historians of the grand school would have to content themselves with portrait painting; they would lose all minute details of character, and background and foreground alike of local colouring. The 'Worthies of All Souls' have shown us how even more directly and more personally the dry stores of the College Treasury can bring us into relation with the great men of old days, and the same plan followed out by the Colleges generally would serve to fill up a great gap in our national history.
But considering the magnitude of the subject, I have said enough about local influences. They prove the increasing interest, but they do not yet prove that interest to be of the most refined and educated character. If we test it by the character of the work it welcomes, we shall perhaps be inclined to put a drag on historic zeal. I cannot help thinking that although so and historical books find a hearty welcome for the most part, unsound and sensational books, which pretend to the character of history, are too often welcomed quite as heartily. High patronage as well as large circles of readers seem now and then to waste themselves on trashy books which owe their circulation to advertising skill or to pretentious claptrap. I cannot of course mention names, but I do not doubt that you can supply them. Now, although this is an unfortunate waste of power and strength, it is not wholly to be deplored: a taste for history must exist before it can be educated, and it will, until it is thoroughly educated, be liable to be misled and waste itself on what is unprofitable. But to whom does it belong to educate and refine it? That place is claimed by the reviewers. But I take leave to say that it is with the reviewers that the improvement should begin; and it is a sad truth that the improvement in reviewing has not yet gone far enough. By reviewing I mean what strictly speaking reviewing should be, and I take leave to say it because, having never been a reviewer, having in fact written but one article of the kind in my whole life, I have been for many years a steady reader of reviews. It is easier perhaps to say, with regard to this point, what we do not want than what we want. We do not want sledge-hammer articles, that demolish an unhappy pretender without attempting to tell us what he pretended or attempted to do; or niggling articles, which enumerate the mistakes and misstatements of a book, ignoring the. fact that, with much carelessness of detail, the author has shown a great grasp of knowledge of his subject, skill in grouping and colouring, and power in investing the subject with true and real interest; we do not want reviews in the grand style, which seem to be intended to prove that the writer knows or believes himself to know more of the subject than the author whom he is reviewing. All these sorts of reviews are either injurious to knowledge or useful only by way of advertisement. I need scarcely point out to you that the reviewer, as a reviewer, is a man of many books and many subjects, the author is generally a man of one book or one subject. Ten to one the most indifferent author knows more of his book (I speak of bona fide authors, not of bookmakers) than his reviewer does. In fairness he has a right to demand that his critic should have tried to put himself in his place and looked at the subject from his point; but how very seldom does he find himself so treated. What we want, I take it, in historical reviewing is that the critic should first give a fair account of the work; that he should exhibit, in doing this, just so much superior knowledge as will justify his claim to sit in judgment upon it, and not put in a word for mere display; that he should discuss the subject-matter judicially and as a whole, not confining himself to the portions in which he is presumedly better informed, but gauging the work by the author's standard as well as his own; that he should not dogmatise where the points of difference are matters of opinion—how many a sore heart would have been spared if the critic would have said, 'Here we differ,' instead of saying, 'This is a great mistake;'—and finally that, in recounting blemishes, he should not confuse structural with incidental error. I do not recommend German reviews as models for English ones; too often they seem to me to be written by rival competitors in the same field with the author; but as a rule they give more real information as to the work criticised than ours do; and they are more moderate in denunciation.
So much of our reviewing is done in newspapers and critical notes in magazines and quarterlies that this sort of criticism nearly engrosses the name; and the great old reviews are come to be collections of essays, the book supposed to be criticised standing merely in the place of text or thesis to a discourse in which neither book nor author may be mentioned. But the historical value of this sort of essay might be very great; and, as history is of course only one of the subjects that compete for a limited number of places in such periodicals, it has frequently been suggested that we should have a historical review of our own; by 'we,' I mean the students of history who are at work here or in London and elsewhere connected with the two Universities. Such a design has much to recommend it. It would be very becoming to the English school of history to have an accredited organ; it ought not to be beyond our powers and resources to maintain such a journal as is kept alive in many of the smaller universities of Germany; and it would be very useful indeed to have a record of the incidental discoveries, and of the minor studies which every historical scholar makes in the process of his work, many of which are thrown away as soon as the immediate occasion for their use is over, or, being employed as appendices to works already too bulky, remain practically unread and unknown. But there are objections or rather hindrances to such a scheme which have hitherto been sufficient to prevent us from making the attempt. It is very questionable whether we can as yet appeal to a public sufficiently extended, and sufficiently educated, to make the design remunerative to either publishers or contributors: the writers whose work would be most valuable are all of them busy men to whom the writing of two or three articles a year would, if made a matter of rigueur, become exceedingly burdensome; and the prospects of any new review in England at this moment can hardly be called encouraging. The older quarterlies have long ceased to provide us with such reading as was found in the Edinburgh and Quarterly of fifty years ago, when Hallam, Allen, and Palgrave were writing on History. Now and then we have contributions to contemporary history, either from the statesman of the day or from the industrious collector of the gossip of the last generation, which have a value, and will hereafter have a greater. Now and then we have a sound critique on new matter brought out in foreign countries, and careful, well-considered judgments on the re-reading of re- written history. Occasionally, very rarely, when a question of theological or political interest touches upon the more recondite stores of history, we have an industrious examination of ancient sources made subservient to the advocacy of some particular theory. But so far as reviews go, this age is one not of deep study; the articles are read by, and therefore written for, men who care just enough about such matters to induce them to read fifty pages of cleverly arranged not too exhausting argument. They share the ephemeral character of the rest of our popular literature, and, so long as that ephemeral character is a mark of such productions, it is only courting failure if we attempt to add to the list of competitors one which would find, in the very points which recommend it to the student, characteristics which would repel those whom, I think I may say, we ought to try to attract.
Still I do not despair of the plan; only it will require an amount of devotion as well as an affluence of means, which are not, it seems to me, at present forthcoming. The confession is, when we look at what is done in Germany, or even when we look at what is done by private societies in England, not a thing to be proud of: but the conditions of publishing and the estimation of literary labour in Germany are so different from what they are here, that the comparison is hardly fair, and the best English private and local societies have always made their publications a labour of love to both writer and editor, whilst by their subscriptions they are secured from serious loss. On the whole I think that if we were to make the effort, it might best be done at first by the agency of a publishing society. Five hundred subscribers, such as sustain the Camden and the Surtees Societies, would launch and keep afloat even a larger plan than has yet been contemplated. If I were called on to furnish an illustration of the increased interest felt in historical matters at this day, I might, I think, allege the curious phenomenon of the republication of the Paston letters. Curious, invaluable, as these relics are, they are really unintelligible to all but the innermost ring of historic students. Their language, their localised details, their minutiæ of family history and illustration of manners, are without any meaning to nine people out of ten. Yet they have just been reprinted with a most admirable apparatus of notes and introductions, in a most useable and convenient form, for the small sum of one guinea; a price at which only a very large circulation can repay the editor for his outlay, to say nothing of his labour and the expenditure of stores of carefully gathered knowledge. So far, you may say, so good; but when we remember that the demand for the republication was not the result of awakened historic interest, or even of curiosity as to what the much-talked-of letters might contain, but sprang directly from an ingenious and paradoxical argument on their authenticity written by a well known scholar, who was not, I believe, specially interested in their contents so much as in their external history; that it was promoted by the rumour that our greatest judge was going to investigate their genuineness, and that in the third place the curiosity so provoked was stimulated and encouraged by the unexpected discovery of new stores of similar matter, when, I say, we remember these things, we are bound to confess that the sensational history of the Paston letters, rather than the really valuable matter contained in them, has been the chief element in the demand for their production. However this may be, we bless the accident and rejoice in the result. However the zeal originated, that result is according to knowledge.
It is time, however, that I should proceed to mention some of the more important additions to our historical stores which have marked the period which I have, desultorily I fear, tried to embrace in the general scope of my remarks. I can but mention a few out of many names, and most of those few are above my unpretending criticism. The last ten years have seen the production of Mr. Freeman's Norman Conquest, which I believe is well known to us all, and is a monument of critical erudition and genius in the recreation of historical life of which Oxford may well be proud. We have seen too the conclusion, premature and abrupt, of Mr. Froude's great work, a book to which even those who differ in principle from the writer will not refuse the tribute of praise as a work of great industry, power and importance: the conclusion scarcely less abrupt, though not premature, of the great work of one of the best and greatest men that Oxford has ever produced, the Lives of the archbishops of Canterbury by Dr. Hook. Two out of the three most valuable contributions of Mr. Samuel Gardiner to the Jacobean and Caroline period, the earnests as we hope of still. greater contributions yet to be looked for: the studies of Mr. Brewer on the reign of Henry VIII included in his volumes of Calendars of Public documents, but rivalling in bulk and more than rivalling in interest the documents themselves; Mr. Pocock's labour's on the same age in his edition of Burnet and of the early documentary history of the Reformation; Professor Rogers's great work, or beginning of a great work, on medieval economy, the History of Prices; these are but a portion of the history work done for England by men trained in the old Liters Humaniores School of Oxford; how long will it be before the new school will have something of the sort to show? To the facile pen of an Oxford man we owe the production of the most popular manual of our history that has ever appeared, the Short History of the English People. To the Oxford Press and the labour's self-denyingly and generously tendered of hard-worked tutors we owe the translation of Ranke's History of England.
Of this, as one of the original suggesters and promoters of the undertaking, I may say a word more; for, curiously enough, the boon conferred by this translation has not been adequately recognised. Leopold von Ranke is not only beyond all comparison the greatest historical scholar alive, but one of the very greatest historians that ever lived. Unrivalled stores of knowledge, depth of research, intimate acquaintance with the most recondite sources, have been, in his case, supplemented by everything which could be conferred by a long life, continuous study, close association with the great political actors and thinkers of the greatest part of the most eventful century of the world's history. Scarcely less eminent as the founder of the German School of History than as an historian himself, he has had the singular felicity of living to gather up the results of the labours of the men whom he himself started in the career of study. It seemed to me, and it was the idea in which the work was begun and carried out, that for Englishmen in their own tongue to have from such a man a reading of the most critical period of English history, would be a boon of incalculable value. Not that we regarded him as infallible, not that we looked for him to have the sympathies of an Englishman, but that we did look to have for a period on which no Englishman can look or speak without prejudice, the evidence of a witness and critic who brought unparalleled qualifications and entire impartiality to bear upon it. The reception of the boon by scholars has been most grateful; that our literary guides have condescended to look on Ranke as one of the ruck of German professors, to treat his work as on the same plane with those of the ephemeral writers whose reputation is so carefully nursed in what is called literary society, does appear to me to be one of the discouraging signs of the times to be set against our more sanguine hopes.
To come down to smaller works of a more distinctly educational character; whilst we may regret perhaps that the good example set by Mr. Kitchin and myself in the Clarendon Press Series has not yet been more widely followed, we cannot but regard the competition among the great publishers in producing manuals of history for schools as a most significant mark of growth. Mr. Longmans' Epochs, Mr. Freeman's Manuals, Mr. Green's Primers, Messrs. Rivington's Handbooks, all have in common the mark of a purpose to secure skilled labour of the best sort; boys are not to be taught any longer by book-makers. May the omen be fully borne out by the result.
So far, however, I have mentioned no book except those in which we here have a direct and personal interest. We should be ungrateful indeed to leave out of ever so general review Mr. Kinglake's great work on the Crimean War, or Mr. Molesworth's on the History of the Period of Parliamentary Reform; these stand at the head of a list of laborious and able publications, the interest of which depends on the incidents of our own time: to some extent they are attempts to forestall the opinion of posterity, but they are books which, if such books ever are to be written, if the contemporary knowledge and opinion are to be applied to the record of the events to which they are devoted, should be written now before the actors are dead or the public sympathy chilled. So rapid is the progress of political life and opinion that even these great subjects are becoming quickly extinct or lost influences among the crowds of new ones. The Reform History has come to be regarded no longer as a grand revolution, of which its chief agents could predicate perfection and finality, but merely as a single stage in a progress the present velocity of which would have made the projectors dizzy. What shall we say of the Crimean War itself? begun as it was by the wisest men of the nation with the greatest reluctance, but begun because they believed that they ought to keep national promises and to maintain treaties even at the risk of sustaining weak and wicked governments. Why, for all the good that it did, it might never have been fought at all. The treaties that resulted from it are thrown to the winds; the powers that fought it have resumed that natural attitude which treaties might attempt to modify but cannot alter: the crisis that it tried to avert is approaching more quickly and more certainly, and it is reverted to only because in it an experiment which we thought fit to try was tried in vain. The history of our own times does, whilst the events are in progress, seem more important than any history that has gone before; greater interests are seen to be involved, greater armaments brought into the field, more critical changes follow, more startling principles are enunciated; yet after all the proportion of historic incident is scarcely changed. The tide began to roll with greater waves at the Reformation, with higher still during the age of Lewis XIV, deep called unto deep in the upheaval of the French Revolution, and the European wars of 1866 and 1870 have proved that the storms grow wilder as the world grows older. But the results are not, so far as we can see, much more permanent, the rapidity of action keeps pace with the growth of the contending influences, and events which centuries ago would have been regarded as striking the knell of Christendom, form the subject of a hasty telegram which we read and say. It is no more than we expected. But I am not going to philosophise; μὴ γένοιτο. When I say that such books as these are not history, but rather the materials of history, I do not mean to undervalue them, but simply to point by them to the fact that until events have come to be seen in due proportion and in their relative bearing, their full history cannot be written; and the most perfect memoirs will need reduction and review. But at the risk of seeming to pass over even more important matters I must pass on.
It is unfortunate, I think, that English writers confine their attention too much to English and French History; and that the History of farther Europe, that of Italy being a partial exception only, is seldom made the subject of research. Carlyle's Frederick II is really the only great work on German or European History which has appeared in England, for nearly half a century, on its merits as a work of History. It will scarcely be claimed for Sir Archibald Alison's valuable works on the period immediately following that of Frederick, that they owe their importance to their character as works of historical research. They were read and are read as any other very interesting book on a very interesting subject, but they do not reach even to the stature of Von Sybel's French Revolution or Lanfrey's work on Napoleon. Carlyle's Frederick is primarily a work of a different sort; although, in the prophetic sight of the writer, that most remarkable book may, at the moment it was written, have borne a conscious reference to events which were still future, but have since most wonderfully illustrated its great theme, the world in general recognised nothing of the sort in it. The author, if he knew himself to be a vox clamantis at the time, must have been astonished at the rapidity with which his Gospel of Force triumphed as soon as it had its chance. Some of us shook our heads over it, one great man amongst us, whose place I am proud to occupy, I dare not say to fill, did not hesitate to speak words of summary condemnation; but the doctrine itself was esoteric, the words, like much else of Carlyle's, were Φωνάντα συνέτοιοιν but συνέτοιοιν only; to the ears of the many they required the sacred interpreter. Shall I be thought hard if I say that the popularity of Carlyle's Frederick was not an intelligent appreciation; that it was Carlyle's reputation and manner that made men read it; and that it was for the Carlyle not for the Frederick that they cared, whilst they wholly missed the prophet's lesson. Such as it is, however, Carlyle's Frederick stands alone in recent historic work.
There may be good reasons for this. The accumulation of new material for German and Italian history is perplexing in itself; the Germans and Italians have scarcely begun to sort it. The materials for Spanish history are only a little more accessible than before, and accessible only to workers who are capable of great fatigue, as well as, what few can pretend to be, already well qualified to make the very utmost of scanty opportunities. But making allowance for everything that can be allowed for, it is, I think, no credit to us that since the republication of the old Universal History, a hundred years ago, we have had nothing like a general book of historic reference undertaken in England, and that, with the exception of Carlyle, we have had no first-class work on German history since Archdeacon Coxe wrote on the House of Austria. We have had sketches and essays, and lectures, and articles in encyclopædias,—one of which at least, Lardner's Cyclopædia, furnishes incidentally some very valuable helps,—but nothing like a comprehensive, well-considered design, such as for its day the old Universal History was. This I hope is a lacuna which will not exist much longer. Not that it can be filled up in a day; but that we have in Heeren and Uckert a model which it will be no disgrace to us to copy, a great credit to equal or to surpass. And this leads me on to that farther circle of European historic study towards which I have been looking at several points in both these lectures. We ought to be taking advantage of the great interest with which English history is now being read in Germany, and, more than that, we ought to learn from that interest that German history might be quite as remunerative to us as ours is to the Germans. Such has always been my contention. The study of French and Italian history appeals to our fancy, to our ecclesiastical and political tastes, but the history of Germany is bound up with our national and natural identity. And you may depend upon it, in our comparative history we have to receive as much as we have to give. Consider the number of precious contributions that we have received already. Immeasurably the best edition of the Anglo-Saxon Laws, by Schmid; the work of Lappenberg and Konrad Maurer on Anglo-Saxon Constitutional Antiquities; Pauli's exhaustive History of Medieval England; Ranke's History of England under the Stewarts; Pauli's History of the Present Century, of which the third volume has just appeared, furnishing by far the most accurate and well-proportioned view of recent history, and anticipating, I do not question it, most of the conclusions of the next generation, as to the great men and great events on which we have looked too closely to see them in their due proportion and relations. There is scarcely a nook of our ancient and medieval history which the Germans are not now exploring. To Jaffé we owe the republication, from original texts, of the writings of Aldhelm and Boniface, the first Englishmen who wrote at all. The letters of Alcuin, the great scholar of York and light of learning in the West, have not only been most elaborately edited by Jaffé, Dümmler and Wattenbach, but are being subjected to a minute historical analysis by Professor Sickel at Vienna, an analysis which brings out, and must bring out more and more as it proceeds, the points of international and inter-ecclesiastical intercourse in the critical century of Anglo-Saxon growth. The Roman and the early Christian inscriptions in Britain have found in Dr. Hübner a critic who not only can collect and record and arrange them, but bring them into comparison and connexion with the like remains throughout Europe. Month after month brings me essays and dissertations, as I said before, upon minute points of English law, chronology, even geography and personal history. "What does this mean? Not surely that those scholars are following an erratic fancy in trying to perfect their knowledge of English history, or that they are working without plan or leading idea. I do not indeed suppose that the scholars and students of Göttingen and Vienna are doing as Von Moltke and his agents are said to have done before the war of 1870, collecting plans, and charts, and itineraries, and models of fortresses, and raised maps of provinces, whilst they were training men and officers both at work and play for conquest. I do not believe that they want to take from us anything, not even the pride of knowing more of our own history than they do, or that they want to engross to themselves by conquest the whole domain of historical knowledge. But I am sure that they have a great object—to increase human knowledge in minuteness of accuracy as well as in breadth and firmness of grasp; to perfect the instruments of historic study; to make, perhaps subordinately and subsidiarily, their exploration of our history throw light on the dark places, the obscure passages and flickering popular institutions of their own land. I wish that we should do the same, that we could and would so study not merely the works of Waitz, Sohm, Brunner and the Maurers, but the documentary evidence on which those writers have based their conclusions.
There is very much both of matter and method to be learned from them. A few months ago a young American professor who called on me told me that he was lecturing in one of the great universities of the United States on constitutional law; he had been in doubt where to begin, and was in fact lecturing on the capitularies of the Frank emperors. I could not help thinking that, if he was not really wasting his powder and shot upon a class that could not appreciate him, he was doing something that I should like to see done here. And, within a very few weeks after, my aspirations were gratified by finding the Corpus professor lecturing on the Salian law, going further back, and taking probably a more remunerative subject than my American friend.
Well, perhaps I am prejudiced by my own especial line of study in favour of such speculations, but I will go still further and say that the devotion with which, since the days of Grimm, the local and municipal institutions of Germany have been studied sets us a fine example. The publication of Grimm's collection of Weisthümer has been followed by a great and general exploration of local archives. Now in England we do not possess one single complete and detailed monograph on town life; Drake's Eboracum, published a century and a quarter ago, is perhaps the best, but in the lapse of many years a vast amount of new matter has turned up, by which Drake could be enlarged and improved. Medieval London still waits for its constitutional historian. The history of the Cinque Ports, and of the mercantile communities on the coast, lie at the root of our naval history, and contain the germs of our international jurisprudence. On them we have a few law-books which are the peculiar domain of a few legal offices in London; but their history has yet to be explored. Every year perhaps we are drawing nearer, for the discoveries of the Historical MSS. Commission are richer in this than in any other region; but for the successful investigation, for the comparison of materials, and for the systematic use of them, we must look to the association of such labourers as are now in Germany employed on the history of the Hanse Towns. Even the Scottish boroughs are in this particular ahead of us; there is a society for publishing the records of Scottish burgh life. All the efforts as yet made in England in that direction have been the result of local and personal interest excited by merely antiquarian curiosity.
It is time that this went further. It is time too, as I said before, not only that we had a feudal map of England before the manorial boundaries are wiped away, but that we had a careful collection of manorial customs: such a codification in fact, as is possible, of the ancient unwritten popular law as it is preserved in these most ancient shadows and skeletons of the early life of our fathers. And so I come round to the point where I digressed.
We may take pattern by the Germans in collecting these relics, but when we have done so we shall have to bring them to comparison with the similar German collections before we can extract the whole lesson that they would convey. I would not be too sanguine, but I honestly believe that such a comparison would reveal to us points of contact and divergency as yet unsuspected even by the most careful investigators, and would enable us to reproduce the ancient society of our common ancestry in a way that would speedily set at rest some of the most controverted questions of institutional history. In such an investigation we might rely on the help of the greatest foreign scholars; and it is a task to the performance of which every intelligent country gentleman could contribute an appreciable share without stirring from his own muniment room.
If we turn to Pi-ance and Belgium, we shall find work of the same kind going on, which is only second, if it be indeed second, to the historical industry of Germany. The re-issue of the Recuell des Historiens de France, of the Gallia Christiana, and the Acta Sanctorum, proves that the revival is begun at the right end, from the ecclesiastical side. The reproduction, in the great Patrologia of Migne, of the early medieval historians, as well as the theologians, is an almost portentous fact; one wonders where the readers and students of such collections are to be found, and fears that, after all, such monuments must find their resting-places chiefly on the shelves of the public libraries rather than on the desks of close students. The intermission or retarded issue of the series of Documents inédits is perhaps not to be wondered at, when we consider the uncertain tenure of power and the enormous demands made for other purposes on the resources of the recent governments of France; but private enterprise and scholastic co-operation have done much to supply the void caused in this way. The collection of the historians of the Crusade, published under the direction of the Institute, increases and flourishes. The publications of the 'école des Chartes' and of the officers of the National Library, supply in their fine criticism and deep research two elements that are somewhat deficient in the other lines of historical work. Local antiquaries and local societies flourish in France as much as in Germany, and the same spirit of restoration and conservation, which is exhibited in the ease of historic buildings and other monuments, is conspicuous in the minute reproduction of chronicles and cartularies. At last constitutional history has found a home again in the land of Montesquieu. The history of États Généraux and Parliaments is critically and impartially investigated by men like M. Picot and M. Boutaric. Ancient laws and customs also are found to have a value besides their importance to the scientific lawyer. M. Fustel de Coulanges brings to the study of institutions a philosophic spirit, critical acuteness, and learning which seems not unlikely to have the effect of inducing some of the German constitutionalists to revise or modify their conclusions. And lastly, in the foundation of the Revue Historique, the best scholars, in all of these departments, have stretched out the right hand of fellowship to the workers in other lands, and occupied their place in the alliance for international knowledge and help in history. It is perhaps true to say that in the most essential and characteristic parts of our own national history we have less interest in France than in Germany; but throughout many ages French and English history, both external and institutional, are bound together as closely as any two national histories can be; and that which illustrates the one cannot but illustrate the other. English writers have long ago learned that there are other histories worth studying besides their own: German writers seem to have been late in learning that the Fatherland has a united and continuous history. France is at last showing that she recognises the fact that other lands have histories at all, and that the whole of medieval history is not a mere preparation for the dramatic glories of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. If she has somewhat to learn from her neighbours, surely we cannot afford to say that we have not much to learn from her; much to hope for, and much to be grateful for, in the co-operation of her scholars. There are signs too of a harvest and promises of co-operation in another field which for several centuries has had little community or sympathy with English students. We have all probably been surprised, pleased,—may I not say amused?—by the consequences of the inaugural lecture of the Professor of International Law; at the chorus of praise and harmony between Italian and English lawyers which followed the note struck by him in the mention of Albericus Gentilis. The very feet that Albericus Gentilis was almost forgotten in England and had scarcely been heard of before in Italy, only proves that there was a latent desire of recognition among the Italian literati with which we had scarcely credited them. Now a very great deal may be hoped for from an awakened spirit of this kind, more especially when we remember the enormous mass of historical material which lies ready in Italy for the researches of competent scholars. It would be a waste of words if I were to attempt even to enumerate the treasures which must exist in Rome itself, in the Papal archives, where are, or should be found, the records of that great court of review and international arbitration which the medieval see of Rome claimed to hold. Much has no doubt perished, but much must remain; much does remain, as the labours of Theiner have shown, to shed new light on the history of remoter Europe. The Church History of the extreme North, of Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Britain, of the Slavonic lands also, has been already illustrated. What could be more remote or insignificant than the Manx Church? Yet Dr. Munch succeeded in extracting from the Vatican archives matter which settles the main question of her history, on which we had no record. Throughout the middle ages every great event, nay, every small event, that in the remotest way pretended to public interest, was discussed at Rome; every great power had a diplomatic agency there; every leading or aspiring statesman had there an agent and probably a paid patron. It is not only in the records of the great public offices of Rome, but in the libraries of the princely families which famished so long the cardinals and confidential ministers of the Papal See, that new matter will be found. The researches of Dr. Brady, the printed results of which I have not seen, but some part of which I saw in MS., brought out of the note-books and diaries of the cardinals of the Elizabethan period, not merely some most important personal and chronological details relative to the English episcopate, but revealed an almost unsuspected web of papal intrigue underlying the better known public action of the popes. Where Dr. Brady, who was working with a definite purpose and not very impartial judgment, stumbled on so much that was valuable, surely much more would be found by a fully equipped investigator. The prizes of this initial research have not fallen to English scholars. Rome is a long way off; English scholars are looked on with suspicion there; even Dr. Todd was not left to work freely and alone in the Vatican: English visitors on a holiday have far too much else to do; the endowment of research has not yet advanced far enough to send searchers thither. So it was left for Cardinal Mai to discover and edit the long-lost and long-lamented Draco Normannicus, the poetical biography of the Empress Matilda, which was printed by him apparently without any knowledge of its history, bat was not published until seventeen years after his death, and in 1871, owing to a review by Dr. Pauli in the Academy, was introduced to English scholars. It was a German that discovered, and it is French scholars who are editing that early French poem on the Crusade of Richard I which is said, I believe with certainty, to be the original upon which the Latin author of the Itinerarium Regis Ricardi based his work. Just so it was the labours of Dr. Pertz and his agents that unearthed the Historia Pontificalis of John of Salisbury among the MSS. of the Bern Library, as he had espied the long-lost Encomium Emmae in the library of the Duke of Hamilton. No doubt luck is an element in these discoveries, but a far more powerful element of success was the educated eye, the larger opportunity, the knowledge how to look, and what sort of things to look for. I should not despair of discovering even the lost Antiocheis, the poem of Joseph of Exeter on the first Crusade, when the Vatican has proved a safe refuge for a Latin poem on the prophecies of Merlin and for the fragments of Giraldus Cambrensis. Let us, it may be said, ascertain our own stores first, catalogue our own collections, ascertain what really is contained in the vast collections of Sir Thomas Phillipps and Lord Ashburnham, ransack the muniment rooms of Belvoir and Ripley, and the records of the cathedrals and church courts, before we go to Rome. It is by no means necessary that either should take precedence of the other; but the opportunities for Italian research are enlarging daily, and it is of great importance to catch the chances whilst they are yet new, and engage the cooperation of willing agents before they weary of the work, or fall back into the jealousies and obstructive ways which have so long debarred English students from their treasures.
Whilst we rejoice in the prospect that Italian scholars and scholarship, libraries and charter rooms, are likely to be open to us more generally, we may, I think, congratulate ourselves on having been able to do something for our Northern neighbours. The Icelandic Dictionary and the new recension of the Sturlunga Saga, which we have now in hand at the Press under the editorship of our friend Mr. Vigfusson, is surely an earnest of something yet to come. We are not so entirely disinterested in making these offerings to our Scandinavian kinsfolk: true we do not expect to make great discoveries of MSS. treasures, although there are far more unlikely places than Drontheim and Upsala; but we hope to attract new friends to the study of our own history and theirs, the common points of external and internal development which the English here have with their kinsmen and the neighbours of their ancient home.
And whilst we look with hope and gratitude to these elder kinsfolk, we look with hope and gratitude too to our more modem cousins across the Atlantic. Why American historians like Prescott, Ticknor and Motley have chosen Belgian and Spanish History as their special field of work, it is not for me to decide. Possibly it is for the best, and the conviction that it is for the best for them to work in fields in which they are less liable to be entangled in the political quarrels, and made obnoxious to the political feelings of their own country and time, may have determined their choice. If an Englishman cannot write without prejudice about the Rebellion and the Commonwealth, much less can an American. But it is, I take it, a misfortune that the earlier English History has not received its share of attention in the United States. Very much of English life was ripe when it was transplanted thither, and belongs as much almost to them as to ourselves. Judging from the letters of friends and the American reviews of English books, I conceive that this is being amended, and that we may soon have reason to rejoice that American acuteness and industry are applying themselves to this region in which they will find so much to profit both themselves and us. The wonderful and successful labours of Colonel Chester in the minuter department of genealogical research, which have produced so noble a book as his Register of Westminster Abbey, may be another earnest of co-operation that will produce good fruits both here and there. We know that we are kinsfolk, that we have thirteen centuries of common Christian History and culture, and a remoter past common to a much larger family: we may hope that with a fair acquaintance with one another we may diverge no more widely, and never have to be ashamed of our connexion.
I must ask you to pardon me for making these remarks so desultory and so discursive, on the solemn occasion of a public lecture. I need hardly repeat that such solemn occasions are not the most congenial portion of my work here. But I have had somewhat to say, and you must take it as I could say it. If another ten years should see me here, solemnly lecturing from this desk, I shall have no doubt to look back on some anticipations frustrated, and to welcome fuller new opportunities which will have presented themselves. But neither occasional disappointment, nor distaste for peculiar parts of my work, will, I may venture to say, damp the ardour of my hopes for the future of historical study here, or my faith in the permanence and development of a great historical school in England, which will look to Oxford as an 'Alma Mater' and 'Fons Scientiarum.'